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The 'IT Factor'

There are as many theories on what our Washington Redskins should do in the 2010 NFL draft as there are recipes for 'NC barbecue’ in my neck of the woods. And the discussions revolving around those two passion-inducing topics can get equally spirited. I can’t help you with the NC barbecue debate (although you are putting too much vinegar in yours), but let me try and help clear things up for you on the upcoming Redskins draft picture.

Brace yourself – because the Redskins are going to draft a quarterback with the 4th pick of the draft – and they’ll be making a rock-solid decision.

I know. I know. I’ve heard the arguments you’re about to make.

Without an offensive line to protect him, it won’t matter who we have at QB, we need to build from the trenches up. We’ve largely ignored the offensive line for a decade and we won’t be successful again until we invest there. Selecting a QB in the draft is a crap-shoot. You’re as likely to get a Ryan Leaf as you are a Peyton Manning. Teams find QB 'gems’ in the later rounds, why can’t the Redskins? Jason Campbell can be a solid NFL starter, he just needs protection and stability. Mike and Kyle Shanahan will help him make it to the next level. Etc...etc…etc…

Let’s start with what we know. You may argue we *may* know this, but search your soul and you’ll know you know it. Jason Campbell is not the answer at quarterback and never will be. Campbell is not without significant physical gifts. He throws a beautiful ball, has plenty of arm strength, and although rarely mentioned, he’s capable of turning a broken play into a 20 yard gain with his feet. Campbell’s athleticism is undeniable.

Some have argued Campbell isn’t 'smart enough’ to be an NFL starter. Ridiculous. Campbell’s simply the victim of his own southernness, his quiet, thoughtful demeanor frequently mistaken for something else. Given the voluminous changes Campbell has had to embrace during his time in DC, one could argue he’s proven his football IQ is more than high enough to get the job done.

There’s just one problem. He hasn’t gotten the job done.

Sure Campbell’s shown flashes. He’s shined occasionally. He’s been more than solid for a 2 or 3 game stretch. But he hasn’t, when critically necessary, shown the ability to take the team on his back and carry it to crucial victories. Campbell is simply not the answer. He won’t be. And Shanahan clearly knows it. The Redskins flirtations with and courting of numerous potential successors even prior to Shanahan’s arrival speak volumes about their assessment of Jason Campbell’s future. In DC, he has none. If you accept that one fact, you know we are on the hunt for our next QB in DC.

Could he already be on the roster? I don’t think so. Of course, sometimes life brings surprises. Colt Brennan could shock us all and dazzle Shanahan this summer. Perhaps Rex Grossman, given a new lease on life in what appeared to be the terminal stages of his NFL career, could rebound and turn into a Pro-Bowler. But neither of those outcomes seem likely, do they? So, again, where does that leave us? In dire need of a franchise quarterback.

And so on to the most compelling argument against doing what the Redskins will surely do on April 22nd, 2010. The Redskins cannot, will not draft a QB with the 4th pick because without rebuilding our offensive line, no QB can be successful. This argument is tricky, because like all good arguments, it’s half right. No QB can be successful without a solid offensive line protecting him. But the argument fails because it’s a 'sucker’s choice’. The argument is not 'The Redskins need to rebuild the offensive line; therefore they should not draft a QB with the 4th pick’. To the contrary, it's 'The Redskins need to rebuild the offensive line to protect the QB they select with the 4th pick’. The two goals, while somewhat daunting given the extent of our needs and our limited picks in 2010, are not mutually exclusive. We can do both.

So why must the Redskins go QB with that 4th pick? It’s really quite simple. Its true selecting a QB in the draft is a crapshoot. But Redskins fans have to start with one supposition, without which our future may be dark, foreboding, and scary. Mike Shanahan is a Super Bowl-winning head coach with decades of experience all supporting the idea that he damn well knows a winning quarterback when he sees one. It has to start there. Assuming that’s the case, and God knows, I’m assuming it (because I don’t have the stomach to consider the alternative possibility), no matter where we select a QB, it’ll be Shanahan selecting him.

Another assumption I’ll make is that, given there are only so many QBs in a draft, it’s very probable there are only 1 or 2 in a given draft that’ll ultimately be 'impact’ or 'franchise’ QBs, however you define that. I define those players as QBs who have the 'IT Factor’, that almost impossible to define quality in the guy behind center that allows him to make those crucial plays, whether by experience or perhaps just instinct, that turn the tide and bring victory more often than defeat. The 'IT Factor’ is exactly what Jason Campbell lacks and will never have. There’s a QB in this year’s draft that has it. And one or two teams will have the opportunity to draft that guy.

This year, Washington is one of them.

Yeah. I know. Tom Brady was drafted in round 6. I get it. It happens. But more often than not, if you want a franchise QB, you’d better count on having an early round 1 pick, unless you believe you’ll win the lottery some day. The most crucial factor which will drive the Redskins inexorably towards making that crapshoot selection of a quarterback with pick number 4 is that it could be a decade before we’re in a position to use a top 5 pick again. That’s it. You can argue that there are no franchise QBs in this draft. I think you’re wrong but you can make that argument. But if Mike Shanahan thinks he’s got the opportunity to pick a QB with that elusive, rare 'IT Factor’ with pick #4, he has to make that choice. Do we need offensive line help? Absolutely. In fact, if we do go QB at #4, I’d strongly recommend we let junior hold the clipboard for a year while we continue to rebuild our offensive line. I suspect that’s exactly what we’ll do.

April 22nd is fast approaching Redskins fans. Get out your jerseys, dust off your foam fingers, tell the wife you’ll be otherwise occupied that evening, and get ready to meet the next franchise QB of the Washington Redskins 18 days from now.
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